NEW ORLEANS (CN) – Oystermen filed a federal class action against BP and Nalco, which makes the dispersant chemical that BP has dumped on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The oystermen claim Corexit 9500 is four times more toxic than oil, and that BP has sprayed more than 1 million gallons of it onto the Gulf, causing the poison to become “a permanent part of the seabed and food chain in the biostructure in the Gulf of Mexico.”
BP dumped the Corexit to “disperse” and sink the millions of gallons of oil from BP’s broken wellhead after the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon that killed 11.
Lead plaintiff Scott Parker claims that more than 1 million gallons of Corexit “has been sprayed over the Gulf of Mexico and has caused a toxic chemical to be a permanent part of the seabed and food chain in the biostructure in the Gulf of Mexico.”
Corexit 9500 is four times more toxic than the oil itself, according to the complaint, “causing an even more dangerous condition to exist in the Gulf of Mexico than if the oil was allowed to float to the shoreline.”
The class claims the dispersant was used “in an attempt to lessen the financial burden of BP and to lessen the public reaction to the oil spill by forcing the oil to the bottom of the Gulf and thereby obviating the need for shoreline cleanup.”
Corexit 9500 has been illegal in the United Kingdom since 1998, when it was found to be harmful to the food chain.
The oystermen claim Corexit will cause the Gulf of Mexico “to be contaminated into future years far beyond that which would have been caused if the oil were allowed to gather on the shoreline.” And they say cleanup workers have and will continue to become sick from exposure to Corexit 9500.
Although the complaint does not cite it, Corexit 9500 was used in unprecedented quantities during the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill off the coast of Alaska; it has been linked to central nervous system depression, nausea and unconsciousness. Valdez spill victims say the chemical can cause liver, kidney damage, and red blood cell hemolysis with repeated or prolonged exposure through inhalation or ingestion, and can cause reproduction problems in women.
According to Nalco’s own documents, Corexit 9500 is “hazardous.”
Though not cited in the complaint BP also is using Corexit 9527 in unprecedented quantities to disperse oil. Corexit 9527 is even more toxic than 9500. It contains 38 percent butoxyethanol, a known animal carcinogen.
Nalco’s own documents classify Corexit 9527 as “hazardous.” Its warning label calls it an eye and skin irritant that poses “acute” human hazard, and warns that repeated exposure may cause injury to red blood cells (hemolysis), kidneys or the liver, and excessive exposure “may cause central nervous system effects, nausea, vomiting, anesthetic or narcotic effects” and coma. The warning states: “Do not get in eyes, on skin, on clothing.”
Nalco’s documents also contain an “environmental precaution” that warns against getting Corexit 9527 on water: “Do not contaminate surface water.”
Critics of BP claim the company could, and should, have used more effective, less toxic dispersants and say that corporate ties with Nalco probably influenced BP’s decision to use the Corexit products.
Congressman Jerrold Nadley, D-N.Y., said a former BP executive is one of Nalco’s directors and a former ExxonMobil president is also on Nalco’s board of directors.
“Why would you use something that is much more toxic and much less effective, other than you have a corporate relationship with the manufacturer?” Nadler asked BP America Chairman Lamar McKay during a House committee hearing in May.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in May ordered BP to stop using Corexit 9500 and 9527 by May 23, but BP continued using the chemicals anyway.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson told BP to look for a less toxic alternative and to use a less Corexit.
The class of oystermen seek damages for negligence and product liability.
They are represented by C. Arlen Braud II of Madisonville, La.